Last night, I went over some of the things you should be doing before you start actually checking out places to rent. Once you’ve gone through all of that, you can start actually going on walk-throughs of rooms/houses/apartments. When I started doing this years ago, I basically just walked into the place, checked to see if the walls were still standing and the windows were intacts. I, admittedly, did not do any of these things.
I also have a long list of horror stories about my past living arrangements. Someday, I’ll tell you about the night I had to call the cops and guard my apartment door with a giant butcher knife because some drunk guy was puking in the stairwell and trying to kick in my upstairs neighbours’ door. Yes, it’s something funny to tell now, but it was not fun then. And most of the things that I came across in those places, while they make for great stories now, were just hell to live through in their own little ways.
So, here’s a few things you can do to try and find the best quality place for your money.
FROM THE OUTSIDE
First, take a look at the property itself. Is it well maintained? Are the neighbouring properties maintained? What is the parking situation like? You can tell a lot about a place from the first impression you get before you walk in the door. A well maintained property outside means that the owners are more likely to maintain the inside as well. If the grass is overgrown, there’s weeds everywhere, the bricks are cracked and pieces are falling into the parking lot, and the windows are all cracked, they really don’t care about the place. These may be the types of landlords who will wait months to fix leaky pipes, or a leaky roof, or busted appliances.
Also, are the neighbouring properties looking the same? If all the buildings in the area are looking a mess, then maybe this isn’t the best place to be moving into. If no one cares, then there might be worse problems they have to deal with than long grass and weeds, like crime or neglect.
Parking is another thing you should be looking at. I got rid of my car the beginning of my second year of university, and have just never replaced it. So when I looked at places, the parking situation wasn’t high on my list of priorities. Even if you don’t drive, though, your friends and family might. You should know the parking rules for the area, whether it’s a parking lot or street parking. Some areas only allow street parking with a permit. Other places are strictly parking meters. Some lots only allow a certain number of visitor parking spots, or will not allow visitors to park in a resident’s spot (even if that resident has no car). It’s best to know what the situation is before you decide to go signing any documents.
FROM THE INSIDE
Once inside, you need to get your sleuth on. First,,,,,,,check for obvious signs of damage and neglect. This includes mould, cracks in the walls and floor, stains, water marks on the ceiling, peeling wallpaper or paint, peeling floor tiles, burn marks, rodent droppings, bugs, and random people who have taken up residence in a vacant apartment (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it). If a landlord can’t even cover up the bloodstains on the wall from the previous tenant (knife accident in the kitchen, blood sprayed the wall, I later found out), then they’re probably not going to come take care of the roaches or mice or mould you find later.
Next, you’ll want to start looking for the electrical outlets. Make sure there are a bunch of them, and they are conveniently placed. I’ll never forget the apartment that had more than half a dozen plugs in the hallway, but not a single one in the bathroom. Make sure every room has outlets, and make sure they work. It’s best to bring along a cheap night-light (you can get them at the dollar store), and use it to check each and every outlet you can find. You would be amazed at how many non-working outlets my old apartment had (hint: it was more than half of them in the whole place!).
Next, go take a look at the windows. Check for signs of damage (water damage, warping, peeling wood, mould) and, if possible, feel for drafts coming in from outside. In the summer, this may be pretty damn hard to do, but those signs of damage can usually indicate some sort of draft. Next, see if the windows open. I once had a place that had no A/C, in probably the most humid city in Canada, and most of the windows were painted shut. I could not sleep in my bedroom, and instead had to sleep on an old broken loveseat in the livingroom under one of the few working windows.
Now, you’ll need to start opening things. Check in the kitchen and bathroom cupboards for anything wonky. Often times, landlords will put the roach and ant traps there, so they’re effective but not obvious to potential renters. You’ll also be looking for signs of damage. A landlord may replace the cupboard doors after a kitchen fire, but won’t repair the damage inside the cupboards. Also, doors that fall off them you try to open them are a huge red flag.
Closets are the next check. Open all the closets, not just to check the size (but definitely DO check the size). Again, landlords may neglect to fix or cover-up the damage in these areas, and would just close the doors instead. Also, make sure the closets are as big as they seem. My current closet looked pretty darn big when I first looked at this room. I can’t possibly fir all my clothes in there (and I’m not a huge clothes-horse or anything) and have to have two dressers to keep most of it in. The problem here is with the set-up of the space. You’ll want to check the rods and hooks (which are oddly placed in mine, giving me less space to work with), and look at any shelving. Also, if it’s a large closet, check for lighting. And if the ceiling is high, check out the top corners with a flashlight. This is where bugs will sometimes hide, and it’s best to catch them early.
And finally, talk to the landlord about the appliances in the apartment. Here in my area, appliances are usually included with the place. I’ve seen times when this is not the case though (Jenna Marbles talked about having to buy her kitchen and laundry room appliances in her last newest HouseTour vlog). If they are included, make sure they work. Like, the whole appliance. I’ve seen fridge/freezer combos with only a working freezer, stoves with only one working burner, and dryers that take three full drying cycles to dry a small load. Ask the landlord about all the appliances, and check them personally whenever possible.
ON THE WAY OUT
After you’ve taken your tour of the place, see if there are any neighbours around you can talk to. I don’t mean go knocking on people’s doors trying to talk to them. Maybe walk around the immediate neighbourhood a little bit, see if anyone is outside. Introduce yourself, tell them you’re thinking of renting in the area, and see what they have to see about it. Not only will this give you a bit of an idea of what the area is like, but it also means you’ll know a few neighbour if you choose to take the place.
So these are just some of the things you should be doing when looking at a place to rent. While it’s not an exhaustive list, it’s the things I most regret not doing before moving into some of the places I’ve lived. There are a tonne more lists and resources out there for anyone who feels like playing with the Googles. One great resource I found was the blog How To Grow The Fuck Up. They have a four part series on how to rent an apartment, but this post here has a great list of things to look into when you’re doing your walk-throughs and tours.
So, I hope this helps a bit. See you all again tomorrow, Sunshine!